Do you need to be labelled a hi-po to be a hi-po?

Posted December 10, 2009 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

I’ve been thinking alot about labels lately.  Specifically… high potentials / high performer labels.  The Executive Roundtable is definitely for fast tracking ambitious leaders, but I always find myself getting into discussions about the difference between someone who’s a hi-po versus a high performer and I’ve been wondering if we’re overcomplicating things a bit.

I watch while organizations spend thousands of dollars “assessing” their leaders for “potential” and promotability.  And, I also listen while people tell me about rough conversations they’d had with people who were on the “hi-po” grid last year and aren’t anymore.  That can’t be good for engagement!

All the while, I get calls from ambitious leaders who, frankly, aren’t waiting to be stamped on the forehead with a hi po seal of approval by their organizations.  Instead, they are aggressively managing their own careers.

Maybe, instead of assessing to figure out who is a high potential, we should simply pay attention to the behaviours that demonstrate the level of commitment that, in my experience, the really high value employees give.

I heard Jack Welch, when asked what separates A players from B players, say simply: “They just care a little bit more.”

My colleague Tim Cork of NexCareer, author of the Tapping the Iceberg, runs a group called the Straight A’s club and says that they way he recruits is to simply ask audiences (often in the hundreds) if they want more info about his club.  Out of hundreds of attendees only a handfull ever follow-up.  From there, he finds the 2 or 3 that he’ll bring into his group.

To me, if you want to spot someone with potential, look for the person who seizes and seeks opportunities.  Chances are that – in addition to intelligence, interpersonal skills and all the other “must haves” to create a platform to build on – this extra chutzpah is what ultimately sets these employees apart.

Are you a high perfomer/high potential/high value individual?  Do you need your organization to label you as one to be one?

If you think you’ve got a track record that proves that you’re a high value leader, send me a note.  We’re interested in interviewing today’s generation of fast trackers.  If you think you’ve got a story to tell… we want to hear it.  Send an email to and put “I’m a hi po” in the subject line.  Maybe we can figure out a way to help our organizations engage us more effectively!

Happy leading!

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